Mashup Markoff

popfly.jpgJohn Markoff has a great story (that phrase belongs on a cut-n-paste clipboard) in today’s NY Times about PopFly, one of my favorite new Microsoft programs because it is so darned fun, and easy, and flexible – and potentially revolutionary.

I’m both a friend and fan of Markoff, but read his piece and you’ll see what I mean, as the examples he cites are pretty cool – or jump to the site itself.

PopFly is getting a lot of attention and coverage, landing on PCWorld’s list in December of “25 Most Innovative Products of the Year.”

By the way, one thing John doesn’t mention is the new mindset in Redmond on brand names for consumer software; “PopFly” and “Silverlight” are pretty darn hip names, for example. And it’s no wonder, since the PopFly team itself calls their baby “a pretty non-traditional Microsoft product.

Last summer I sat down over a beer and hamburger with John in Carmel, Calif., during a Highlands Forum conference on Web 2.0 approaches, and we had fun remembering the old days when I was but one of the geeky readers of his obsessively followed column in the old BYTE magazine in the early-mid 1980s. He later joined the San Jose Mercury News, during the time that editor Rob Elder asked me to join the Editorial Board with a regular column on politics; I couldn’t afford the pay cut!

Markoff’s best attribute is his intuitive feel for the history of the computer era, and it is no surprise since he actually grew up in Palo Alto. When I first got to Silicon Valley in 1984, the best way to learn what was really going on was to wander down to the Sunnyvale Fry’s Electronics store (an institution itself), and pick up one copy of BYTE and each of the free computer weekly / monthly magazines that the Fry brothers had stacked up at the door. I rarely bought anything – I was saving up for my eventual 1986 purchase of a PC XT clone from a Berkeley sweatshop, even splurging for the “massive” 20MB hard disk add-on.

That machine wouldn’t have run PopFly, but it sparked a lot of large-scale ideas that are only now doable because of things like mashups. Oh, I probably shouldn’t say anything about those ideas, not yet. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day….

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